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Aunt Sherrell

10 May

Last Saturday, I got to chat with this lady who I hadn’t seen in a long time.  She is not my mother or my grandmother.  In fact she really isn’t related at all, although I think we could go back a few generations and prove that we share common cousins.  

My siblings and I called her Aunt Sherrell when we were growing up.  She was a good friend to our family, but not just that.  Every time we had a family crisis, she was there. 

I’m pretty sure she was there to help when my dad was hurt in a car wreck, and when our house burned to the ground (but my memories of those times are pretty few because I was so little).  

She was there when Matt age 2 fell in the trash fire and was covered in terrible burns. She made salve from comfrey, aloe Vera, and honey and helped my mom for more than just the first day. 

She was there with a big pot of soup every time there was a new baby.

She was there when my mom was going through chemo treatments. She took some of us into her home for weeks (months?) because  mom was so ill.  

During that time I remember her teaching me that part of washing dishes is to clean the sink when you are done.  

She was who my parents called the second time their home burned to the ground (this time, in the middle of the night.). That’s the kind of friend she is.

She taught me piano for some years.  My sisters and I would walk over to her house after school. She would often give us a sleeve of Ritz crackers to split for a snack. (Just so you know, there are reliably 33 crackers in a sleeve.  That meant a whopping 11 crackers each.  It was luxury to have so many crackers each. ) My sisters and I took turns, 1 having a lesson and 2 playing Statego while we waited.  

One time I was washing dishes with her and she told me how when she was a girl, her mother would assign all the chores for the day.  She knew that once her chores were done, she was free to play.  Because of this she learned to work quickly. She said her husband was only given one chore at a time as a boy, but he knew that as soon as he finished it, he would be given a new chore.  So he did not learn to get his work done quickly. I’ve tried to remember that with my own kids and chores.

Sherrell could make anything that falls in the category of needlework.  She cross stitched tapestries that looked like paintings by masters.  She knitted and tatted lace.  She told me once that as a girl, she did needlework in the evening while listening to radio programs with her sisters.  She said that sometimes in later life as she sat knitting and counting stitches, whole radio programs would come back to her memory.  She suspected that counting stitches had programmed those stories into her memory.

Sherrell had lots of heartbreaking things happen in her life and lots of hard things.  But she has a great sense of humor, and a stubborn streak too.  She told me that when she was a girl, she baby sat for a very large family.  One day the father of the family said to her, “If they ever reinstate polygamy*, I want you to be my second wife.”  

Sherrell looked him in the eye with her chin high and said,”No thank you.  I intend to be a FIRST wife.”  She wasn’t going to be second anything.  

*Polygamy hadn’t been discontinued for very long at that point.

She taught seminary many years. Her last year teaching was my first year of seminary. That year was Doctrine and Covenants and Church history.  She had lived such a pioneer life, that it felt like being taught the history by someone who had lived it. And she had lived all the principles. So she could bear testimony that the Lord’s promises are true.  

One of her favorite scriptures is Doctrine & Covenants 123:17

 Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.

I always saw her cheerful and calm no matter what calamity she was facing.  

It was so great to talk with her for a few minutes last Saturday.  I hope for many more times.  

What have you promised never to do, because you remember?

6 Mar

 I was four.

But I remember the night my father was brought home with a forehead full of glass and a broken hip.
I remember two of the friends who came to help my mother.

A few miles of rolling Missouri fields away, the someone was telling my aunt that her husband would not be coming home, ever.

My father and my uncle had driven together to a church meeting that evening.

On their drive home, as they crested a hill, a car full of drunk teenagers crossed the center line and hit them head-on.

  My uncle was killed instantly.  My dad was the driver.  He was badly hurt.  He was taken to the hospital by ambulance, but at the hospital, the nurses/doctors just wrapped his head in gauze without removing the glass from all the lacerations. They ignored his saying iver and over that his hip hurt the worst and did not even x-ray it. They x-rayed his head and knee and left him shivering on the cold marble table for a very long time.  A brace from the car had speared his knee all the way through and that looked like the worst wound to them, so they wrapped it up and ignored the rest.  They refused to tell him where Uncle Clyde was or what had happened to him for over 3 hours.

Soon after “the wreck,” as us kids always referred to it, my dad developed pneumonia and had to be hospitalized.  The doctor told my mother that it was common for people who suffered an impact to the chest in a car accident to develop pneumonia.  While still weak from the pneumonia, my father developed a second infection and had to be hospitalized again.

I remember that it seemed like forever that he was in the hospital.  I think it was actually about two months total.  I remember asking my mother when daddy would be coming home.

A few miles away, my pregnant aunt had to tell her 5 children that their daddy was not coming home.

The family of the drunk teenagers sued my aunt, demanding that she pay damages and the medical bills for their son’s broken leg because my uncle had been in the car they collided with.

This was my first “experience” with alcohol.  I learned then that alcohol was a killer and not a fair killer either.  Alcohol killed the innocent.  Alcohol took people’s daddies away.  Alcohol took away other things too.  My father walks with a limp to this day–although most people probably don’t notice because he is so tall, and he sort of rolls along like a ship that lists to one side slightly.  Alcohol took basketball away from my dad.  Something he loved to play (and was good enough that he was offered a contract to play with an Australian team before he was married.)  He never complained about it, but us kids knew he didn’t play because of his hip.

In my religion, we follow a health code that we call The Word of Wisdom.  God has told us that “strong drinks are not for the body”  so we do not drink alcohol.

As a child and a teenager, I could not understand why anyone would drink alcohol.  To me, alcohol equalls death.

When I was sixteen, I worked in an office.  My boss was a part-time sheriff for the county.  One day he told me how he had pulled over some teenagers who were drinking and driving.  He gave them a warning and made them pour out their beer.  He told me this story, I think, because he wanted me to be impressed by how cool he was and how understanding of teenagers he was.

I remember just staring at him, wanting, but not brave enough to say, “Drunk teenagers killed my uncle.  You should have been more harsh with them.”

Now as an adult, I don’t know.  Maybe he was right.  Teenagers don’t often respond to harshness. Maybe his way was an effective way to teach them a lesson.

Now as an adult, I can understand a little that if a person grew up in a home where people drank alcohol often and nothing bad came of it, or the bad that did was laughed off as a funny story, that they would see no harm in drinking.

I believe God warned us not to drink alcohol for the same reason I tell my children to stay away from venomous snakes.  Snakes aren’t bad, but they are dangerous.  It isn’t so much because alcohol is bad, but because it is dangerous.  It dulls our minds.  It makes us less able to hear Him.  It makes us less able to make good decisions.  Under it’s influence, you can hurt others.  Those who become addicted to it are chained as surely as any slave ever was.

When I was 19, I joined the military.  In our company of about 120 basic trainees, one soldier was chosen as the “Soldier of the Cycle”  the best of our class.  The soldier chosen was a tall young man from New York but of Pacific Islander decent. He was a hard worker and an impressive soldier.  One afternoon, a group of us were talking, and somehow it came out that I didn’t drink alcohol.  He became very excited.  He wanted to know why I did not drink alcohol.  I told him it was because of my religion.  He told me that he had never met anyone who did not drink, but because of the way he had seen alcohol devastate his parent’s lives, he had made a pledge to himself to never drink alcohol.
His courage to change his family legacy all by himself was very inspiring to me.

I don’t judge others who drink alcohol.  I know many good people who do.  But I would judge myself, if I ever drank, because I know it’s wrong.  To me, drinking alcohol would make me complicit in my uncle’s death.  I would become one of his killers.  I would in effect be saying, “I don’t care who I hurt by drinking this, I’m going to have some fun.”

I could not do that.
***my original post had several errors due to the fact that I was only four when this happened and we never talked about it much as a family.  My dad corrected my mistakes and I added them in as edits for awhile.  Now for the sake of readability and family history, I have removed the mistakes completely.

Muddy Ditches

2 Mar

So I was thinking about my drama and I remembered this incident from a few years ago.  It made me chuckle to myself, so I thought I’d share:

Back then, my husband and I and 3 kids lived next door to my parents.  I don’t consider it “out in the country” because we lived on a paved road, but it was 18 acres and on a well, not city water.  So some of you all might consider that country.

I had just returned home from something breezy and fun.

My dad was knee deep in a muddy trench and water was spraying at him from a broken pipe like a fire hose.

The water finally slowed to a slow gush, and I walked closer.  I forget what the exact problem was he had been trying to fix.  In any case, there were 2 lines, a main trunk line bringing water from the well, and a spur line that was for just such a thing as adding a hydrant or adding a waterline to somewhere new.  Not having been the one who laid the original lines, my dad called the man who did to double check which was the main and which was the spur line.  The man told him backwards, so when dad cut what he thought was the spur, the geyser began.  Now he had a whole new problem an addition to the one that had required digging the ditch in the first place.

So there dad was, up to his knees and elbows in mud, in a ditch he had dug,  struggling against water spraying from a pipe that he, himself, had cut.  He kind of leaned against the side of the ditch and looked over at me and said something like,

“I know Lehi tells us that there is opposition in all things.  I have faith  in that principle.  I don’t need any more opposition to learn it.”

I think what he was trying to say was, “I think I’ve had enough opposition for today.  I’d like to be done with opposition now.”

Sometimes when I have a particularly hard day, that memory of dad in the ditch will flash through my mind and I’ll smile to myself.  And then I’ll remember how hard he always worked for our family, and that gives me the strength to cheerfully  keep on keepin’ on.


2Nephi 2:11 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one;


14 Feb

Happiness is a spring day.  It slips up slowly, almost indicernibly, and suddenly I must go outside.  The world is fresh and clean and good and new.  Warm breezes melt away winter frost, banish my loneliness, wrap warm arms around my soul.

I had been sleeping, but today I am awake!  Little chickadee’s hop from branch to branch twittering merrily and my heart skips with them out to greet the world. Peaceful sweet thoughts flow through me like great rolling clouds gliding across the sapphire sky.  Bright daffodills bow and beckon to me like so many warm smiles.

I am filled to overflowing and my soul seeks no more.  Like the brook, babbling and laughing along, I am complete and happy in myself.  Little minnows dart to and fro, from shadow to light, daring to come out and bask in the light.

A blue heron wades in the brook, taking stately steps.  He tilts his head at me.  Then with a cry, he spreads his wings and leaps into the sky.  I, too, know who I am, and I will fly.  I will climb up up to heaven and soar above the clouds.

I Remember the Smoke: The Rest of the Story

30 Jan

What happened a few months before the fire:  My mother had a recurring nightmare about thieves breaking into the house.  So she pestered my dad until he installed a new door knob on the front door, one that locked.  Once the door knob was installed, she was happy, and went about life as usual, never bothering to lock the door.

What happened the day of the fire:  My mother left 4 of us at Grandma’s house (ages 5, 4, 3, & 2) while she went grocery shopping with the baby (6 months old).  She returned to the house from shopping, intending to put the sleeping baby in his crib before coming to get the rest of us from Grandma.  But the front door was locked.   Rather than walk ALL the way around to the back door, she decided to just take the baby with her.

My father was laying a Formica counter in the new addition to the house.  The glue that is used to glue down ( lay) Formica is very flammable.  The fumes are also extremely flammable.  Dad had gone upstairs to put his tools away and as he reached to set the glue can on the shelf, his overall strap caught on a nail.  He missed the shelf and the can dropped.  When the can hit the floor, it caused a spark that ignited the fumes in the house and the house basically erupted in flames.  The force of the fire pushed Dad down the stairs and out the back door in 2 giant steps.  He ran around to the side of the house, broke a window, and pulled out the file cabinet drawer I mentioned before.  He also grabbed a box of baby clothes (which it turned out my mom had boxed up because the baby had outgrown them.)  If the baby had been in the house, my dad would most likely not been able to save him, and probably would have died trying.

This is the boy who lived because one day in the whole of my parents’ life, someone locked a door:

(he’s the one wearing the shirt)

Here are the rest of us who are also all glad that we weren’t home that day:


If you click on the picture, you can see it bigger.

I Remember Smoke

30 Jan

When I was 5, our house caught fire.  My siblings and I were at our grandmother’s house.  My mom was grocery shopping.  My dad was working on remodeling the kitchen of the 100 year old farmhouse we lived in.  After shopping, Mom picked us up from grandma’s.  It was October, and there were lots of leaves on the ground.

What I remember seeing is the smoke.  When we were about 2 miles from home, we could see it–a big black column billowing up above the trees with orange tongues of flame flickering out here and there.

What I remember hearing is my mother saying, “Someone must be burning tires……….No! that’s a house!……………It’s our house!”

When we reached our neighbor’s house (about a quarter mile away from our place), their daughter ran out and shouted for us to stop, her hair whipping in the wind.  We stayed there and waited and watched the red and yellow lights flashing on the firetrucks.

My sister who was a year younger than I, cried that she wanted to sleep in her own bed.  I being so much older and wiser thought to myself how silly she was to want her bed when it was burning up.  Personally, I hoped my dolly that said, “Momma” had been saved from the fire.

It never occurred to me to wonder if my dad was safe (he was.)  I imagined him helping the firemen and climbing up their tall ladders.

The house burned quickly–too fast for the firemen to save anything.  My dad did have time to pull out the file cabinet drawer with all the important papers.


Cracked Wheat Mush

15 Jan

Wheat Berries. This is specifically hard white wheat (as opposed to hard red wheat or soft white wheat, which are other types of wheat that you can buy.  Hard red wheat has a stronger flavor and makes darker bread. Soft white wheat will not make good bread at all,  but makes good cake.)

I grew up eating cracked wheat mush every day.  For those of you who’ve never eaten it, it is like steel cut oats, only made with wheat and not oats.  Cracked wheat mush is very healthy for you.

I hated it.

However, now that I’m older, I don’t just eat food because it tastes good.  I try to eat food that will make me feel good after I eat it.  Thus, mush is in, Cheerios are out.  I’ll be typing up a different post about the Word of Wisdom, for now I will just say that it says “Wheat for Man” so we know wheat is good for us and that is why my parents made me eat it all those mornings before school.

It takes over 30 minutes to cook cracked wheat mush on the stove, so I’ve been experimenting with some steel cut oat crock pot recipes to see if I could de-stress my mornings and still eat healthy.  Some people have a grinder of some sort to “crack” their wheat.  I do not, so I use my new Breville Hemisphere Blender (which I got for Christmas, thank you DH.  It was a good present because I use it multiple times every day making cracked wheat, green smoothies, and strawberry yogurt.)

Here is what the wheat looks like in the blender before it is blended:


Wheat in the Blender


Cracked Wheat

Here is what the wheat looks like after about 20 seconds of blending on high.  I just blend it until it starts to look like all the berries have been chopped into thirds.

I have found that 4 cups of water to 1 cup of wheat makes the best consistancy when it is cooked: not too runny, not to thick, just right.  So I put the wheat with about 1.5 cups of water in the blender and blend it.  I pour that into the crockpot, and then I swish the remaining 2.5 cups of water in the blender to get the last bits of wheat out (that gets poured into the crock pot as well.

5 hours in the crock pot on low is perfect to cook the wheat.  However, I sleep more than that, so I set my crockpot on low and plug it into this appliance/light timer (Thanks Dad).  That way, the crockpot is only on for 5 hours, from 1 a.m to 6 a.m.


Light Timer: How to cook things for only 5 hours overnight in a crock pot.

  Also, when you cook the mush in the crock pot, a lot will stick to the sides.  I don’t like cleaning that out every morning, so I create a double boiler in my crockpot with a heatproof (Pyrex) bowl.


My crockpot is a 4 quart pot. I put in water (about 3 cups).


Then I place my Pyrex bowl inside. You want the water to be about half way up the sides of the bowl.


Then I pour the cracked wheat from the blender into the bowl. I’m holding some in a spoon so you can see how it is all chopped up now.

Last I put the lid on the crockpot and go to bed feeling happy about the morning.


Perfectly cooked Cracked Wheat Mush

Because I’m not slaving to cook breakfast anymore, I have time to do fun things like this instead:


Tamale Pie


Pumpkin Pie

Here are the family’s favorite Mush Recipes that we have tried in the last 2 weeks:

Plain Mush:

1 cup Whole Wheat Berries

4 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

Blend wheat in the blender with the water.  Pour into crockpot, add salt.  Cook 5 hours on low.

I like to eat my mush with a little bit of honey or butter stirred in.

Apple Pie Mush:

1 cup Whole Wheat Berries

4 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon apple pie spice

1 1/2 Tablespoons butter, cut up

2 apples

Blend the wheat in the blender with the water.  Pour into crockpot, add salt, sugar, apple pie spice, and butter.

Cook on low for 5 hours

Chop up apples and add just before serving. (We’ve decided we don’t like our fruit cooked with the mush.  If you like your fruit cooked, you can add it before cooking.)

Banana Coconut Milk Mush: This one smells divine while it is cooking!

1 cup Wheat

2 cups water

1 can or 2 cups coconut milk (light coconut milk is best, if you can get it)

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all that in the crockpot and cook for 5 hours on low.

Chop 2 bananas and sprinkle over the top before serving.  (You can add the bananas before cooking, and the flavor is good, but it looks all brown and sick, so if you don’t like your food to look disgusting, leave the bananas out during cooking. Personally, I don’t care, but the kiddie pies and the DH refused to eat the cooked bananas. )


This little girl is not picky about how she gets her banana, as long as she gets it.

Doctrine & Covenants 89:16-17

16 All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—

 17 Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.